Friday, September 30, 2016


Former Mayor Buck Cruz
and a photo of his late father Ramón Padilla Cruz

This series called "Lost Surnames" looks at families who were once here, and are still here in their descendants, but whose names have been lost because no one anymore carries the name as their last name.

One such family are the Padillas.

The name does not appear in the all-important 1727 or 1758 censuses; important because those documents would tell us (for the most part) if the family ancestor was a member of the Spanish regiment of soldiers or of the Pampanga (Philippines) regiment instead.

So we cannot even say where the first Padilla on Guam was from. It's a Spanish name, so he could have been from the Philippines or Latin America, and a smaller chance of being from Spain itself.

From the baptismal records that have survived, it seems that our first Padilla to appear in the Guam records was one Bruno Padilla, who married Nicolasa de la Cruz. The couple seems to have had nothing but daughters, unless sons died in childhood. This explains why the name died out.

Bruno Padilla's signature in 1861

One daughter, Maria, had a daughter, Vicenta, out of wedlock, but Vicenta later married a man from Malesso', Ignacio Pangelinan de la Cruz. These were the parents of Ramón Padilla Cruz, the father of Mayor Buck.

But, eventually, Maria married Juan de León Guerrero Campos and moved to Saipan.

Maria's sister Isabel also moved to Saipan where she married the American William Jones (spelled Johns in the Spanish records). These records state that Isabel was the daughter of Bruno Padilla and a Rita de la Cruz. Could this be the same Nicolasa? Once in a while in these records, the same person is called by two different first names. Or, are Rita and Nicolasa two different people? Possibly sisters? In any case, Bruno Padilla is the father. So Maria and Isabel are, at the very least, half-sisters.

Isabel, by the way, had a prior marriage to Francisco de León Guerrero.

Finally, we have a Joaquina, daughter of Bruno and Nicolasa. She stayed on Guam, married to José Aguon Laguaña. This couple had many children.

So, while Maria, Isabel and Joaquina could not sustain the Padilla last name, the Padilla blood runs in the veins of many Chamorros in Saipan, Guam and wherever else they moved.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016


Has it ever occurred to you that there are no bears on Guam?

So where did Bear Rock get its name? From Americans, who were reminded of a bear from the rock's shape. Although, in 1930 or so, Governor Bradley's daughter took film footage of the rcck and called it "Squirrel Rock." Many people would agree with the Governor's daughter.

In any case, our mañaina never called this rock Bear Rock nor Squirrel Rock. What is the Chamorro name for this rock?

The older people of Inalåhan tell me that it is called Laso' Gi'ai. Not only is the rock called that; the area around it is also called Laso' Gi'ai.

One old map, from 1915, points to this, although the non-Chamorro mapper did not quite get the spelling right. No surprise there; Europeans and Americans often spelled a Chamorro word or name in the way that sounded right to them. The map erroneously spells it Lasodiac, or Laso' Diac.

From Dept of Parks & Recreation
Courtesy of Joe Garrido

The laso' part of the name is believed by almost everybody to refer to the phallic shape of the rock. Laso' is a Chamorro slang word for the male penis. It is believed to be a shortened version of the word balaso', an elongated outgrowth from the tree that does not form into an actual fruit. It is called the "male flower" of the breadfruit tree. The female flower forms into the edible fruit.

Some Chamorros also refer to the inner core of the breadfruit as the balaso', because it often forms an elongated part similar to the male flower.

So, the word laso' was used for some of these rocks that, in some minds, resembled the male organ. Another rock on Guam named this way is Laso' Fuha (Fouha Rock).

The gi'ai part of the name is more of a mystery. Several people have their own interpretations what the word means. The word is not found in any of the Chamorro dictionaries we have today.

Ben Meno from Inalåhan has an interesting explanation. He says that gi'ai means "visible, seen." When boys would swim in the area of the rock, they would swim in the nude. Thus, their laso' was gi'ai. Maybe the American should have called it Bare Rock.

Other people might be confusing the word gigao with gi'ai. Gigao is a method of catching fish and shellfish.

Sorry to say, I haven't found yet an iron-clad explanation for the name, though some informants are dead set on the ones they gave me.

Ben had one final comment. Some people call the rock Åcho' Higånte. This literally means "giant rock." Higånte is from the Spanish word for "giant." Åcho' is Chamorro for "rock" or "stone." Ben says that older Chamorros called anything really big higånte.

Monday, September 26, 2016


ni ha pula' gi Fino' Chamorro si Påle' Jose Villagomez, OFM Cap

Asaina, po'lo ya guåho i ramientå-mo para i pås ginen hago.

Gi annai guaha chinatli'e', na' fanåtme yo' ginefli'e'.

Gi annai guaha nina' låmen, na' fanåtme yo' inasi'e'.

Gi annai guaha dinida, na' fanåtme yo' hinengge.

Gi annai guaha desganao, na' fanåtme yo' ninangga.

Gi annai guaha hinemhom, na' fanåtme yo' minanana.

Gi annai guaha triniste, na' fanåtme yo' minagof.

O Yiniusan na amu-ho, cha'-mo kumonsiesiente na ayo ha' bai aligao

i para bai ma konsuela, lao guåho bai fangonsuela;

i para bai ma komprende, lao guåho bai fangomprende;

i para bai ma guaiya, lao guåho bai fanguaiya.

Sa' ginen i gineftao na siña hit man ma geftågue,

ginen i inasi'e na siña hit man ma asi'e',

yan ginen i finatai na siña man mafañågo hit guato gi taihinekkok na lina'la. Amen.

A recording of the Chamorro prayer :


Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life

Friday, September 23, 2016


The journals of the missionaries are often a great source of information about our people's way of life in the old days.

I was reading the recollections of an American missionary on Guam in the late 1930s and into the late 1940s and early 50s.

He writes about the custom of many Chamorro families of that period to shut the whole house up tightly at night when everybody's about to sleep. Despite the lack of air conditioning or even electric fans (some families had them, many did not), nåna would shut all the doors and windows without even a crack, while the whole family huddled together on the guåfak (woven mat) or mattresses placed right on the floor. So, there was the lack of ventilation and a lot of body heat from the whole family lying next to each other. Of course, as many people claim, the island was less hot in those days, especially at night. People get used to things, especially when it's all they know from childhood up.

People shut their homes tight before bed because they were deathly afraid of the sereno, the moisture that comes with the cooler evening air. The sereno is bad and makes people sick! It is to be avoided at all costs. One should cover his or her head if one has to go out at night or in the early dawn. The house should be shut air-tight before bed time.

This priest had to visit a sick man once, whose condition was blamed on the sereno . The man gradually lost the use of his entire body, starting with his hands, then feet then the rest of his body. Towards the end of his life, he couldn't even swallow solid food. He survived on soft or wet foods until he passed. It sounds as if the man died of Lytico-Bodig (Lou Gehrigs' Disease), but the family blamed the sereno . The man was a night watchman at a lumber yard and fell victim to the sereno .

But the priest remarked that the very safeguard Chamorro families believed in was probably a main reason why tuberculosis (TB) was common. An air-borne disease, TB can be easily transmitted person to person when there is poor ventilation and when people sleep so close to each other.

Thursday, September 22, 2016


When we hear the last name Demapan, we think of Saipan and, indeed, Saipan is where the name is numerous and widespread.

But the Saipan Demapans are descendants of a Demapan born on Guam who moved to Saipan around 1898, just as Guam was taken by the U.S. and Saipan remained Spanish until the following year when the Germans occupied it in 1899.


Ramón Demapan, married to Antonia San Nicolás Borja, both of whom were born on Guam, had their first child, María, baptized in Saipan in 1899. They had subsequent children, who are the ancestors of today's Demapans in Saipan.

Ramón was the son of Francisca Demapan, and apparently also the son of a father not married to Francisca. There is only one Francisca Demapan in the 1897 Guam census, and she was aged 44 years in that census and a widow, married to a man named Cruz. Her children with Cruz would have carried the name Cruz. Ramón carried the name Demapan, suggesting that he was Francisca's son out of wedlock. In those days, following Spanish custom, married women kept their maiden names and did not assume their husband's surname.

From Ramón and Antonia came their descendants who, besides being numerous, gave Saipan a good number of government officials and professionals


The håle' or roots of the Demapans lie in Guam, and as far back as 1727 when they appear in the Guam census of that year.

In that census, there is one male Demapan named Diego, married to Antonia Enríquez. He appears in the list of soldiers from Pampanga in the Philippines. In 1727, his named was spelled Manapang, but he appears in the 1758 Census as Diego Demapan, married to the same Antonia Enríquez. Clerical errors, and a big flexibility in spelling, was common in the past. In fact, the copy of the 1727 Census I have is a modern transcription, and not the original manuscript. So, for all I know, the typist some years ago misread the original manuscript. One day I'll check the original myself and compare. But it is quite clear that the Diego Manapang married to Antonia Enríquez in 1727 is the same Diego Demapan married to Antonia Enríquez in 1758.

As Diego is the only male Demapan on Guam, it could be that all Demapans, those who remained on Guam and Ramón who moved from Guam to Saipan, are descendants of Diego. Diego and Antonia had one son, Francisco Javier, who was still unmarried in 1758 but it is possible that he later married and had children to carry on the Demapan name.

Two other Demapans in the 1758 Census are women who married and whose children carried on their husbands' names. These two women named Demapan could either be sisters of Diego or his daughters.

Whatever the case, the Demapan family on Guam did not grow into a huge clan. Here's what we can decipher about the main lines of the family :

There are two Demapans on Guam in 1897 that seem to be brothers.

Francisco Arceo Demapan (age 56) and Vicente Arceo Demapan (age 52).

The two other Demapans on Guam on Guam in 1897 are around the same age :

Ignacio Demapan (age 52) and Francisca Demapan (age 44), who, as I mentioned above, was possibly Ramón's mother. It is possible, but not certain, that Ignacio and Francisca were siblings of Francisco and Vicente and would therefore be, if this is true, Arceo Demapans. Further research is needed.

Francisco married but had no children.

The Guam Demapans trace their lineage to either Ignacio or Vicente.


According to the 1727 Census, Diego Demapan was a soldier in the Pampanga Infantry. That would most likely make him either a Filipino, or the son of a Filipino. The surname Demapan is not found in Spain. It is more than likely a Filipino name. There are Filipinos with the surname Demapan, as seen below in a list of college graduates in the Philippines.

In the Spanish records of the Marianas, the name is spelled in many ways. Demapan, Dimapan, De Mapan, De Mapang.....and even the rather "off" Manapang of 1727.

The combination "de Mapan" makes me wonder if the name means "of/from Mapan." Many surnames came from just that kind of construction; to be called by your town of origin.

And, lo and behold, there are towns, villages and hamlets in the Philippines called Mapan or Mapang, too many, in fact, to be helpful in pinpointing which town Demapan could be referring to. Oh well. Another unsolved mystery, for now.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


This song, sung by Primo Marianas from Saipan, takes me back to the late 1970s when my friend, the future Father Patrick Garcia, used to play this album constantly.

It's a song about growing up poor, and reliance on God, the generosity of others and avoiding theft.

Åhe' ti isao este i pepble
(No, poverty isn't a sin)

sa' guaha ha' pat riko pat popble
(because there are either rich or poor)

lao eyu yo' nai na piniti-ña
(but the pain of it)

i sesso yo' ma fa' chalek-ñiha.
(is to often be their laughingstock.)

Lao si Yu'us mås hihot na amigu-ho
(But God is my closest friend)

guiya et mås hu hahasso
(He is the one I think of the most)

sa' guiya ha enkatgao i mañaina-ho
(because He put my parents in charge of me)

bai tayuyute ha' sa' siempre u esgaihon yo'.
(I will pray because He will surely accompany me.)

Tåya' isao-ña este i mangågao
(There is no sin in asking)

an sakke hao ennao mås isao
(to be a thief, that is more a sin)

ya si Yu'us u onra siha i man geftao
(and God will honor the generous)

sa' i pepble man mames nai na taotao.
(because the poor are sweet people.)

Thursday, September 15, 2016


A few months ago I needed help arranging for a Mass. I asked a lady to help me get a choir.

She said she would be more than happy to find me a choir but, "Mungnga yo' ma faisen para bai kånta." "Don't ask me to sing."

I asked, "Sa' håfa?" "Why not?"

"Ilek-ña si nanå-ho na akkague yo' kumånta." "My mom said I sing on the left."

It was an expression I never heard before, and at first thought maybe it was a personal saying that her mom alone used.

But I asked a few older people and they were familiar with the expression, too.

They said that the right side of anything is considered the correct side. So, to sing on the left is to sing badly or off-key. While the rest of the choir is following the musical road, so to speak, you veer off to the left and sing your own notes.

"Out of tune," by the way, is desentonao, from the Spanish "desentonado," although "desafinado" is the usual word for "out of tune."

Wednesday, September 14, 2016


I was talking with an elderly man the other about the Primary Election results, which weren't so encouraging for a handful of incumbents. Of course, the primary and general elections can produce very different results, so those incumbents are not necessarily out of a job already.

But, it seems that there may be one or two sitting senators who may need to look for employment this coming January.

To which the man said to me, "Kada guaha nuebo na såntos, tåya' esta milagru-ña i hagas."

"Every time there's a new saint, the old one has no more miracles."

New saints are appearing in the Church all the time, especially in our modern age. In the past, there might be a new saint every several years. Under Pope St John Paul II alone, 480 were added to the list of saints in 27 years. Unless they are martyrs, miracles need to be attributed to a candidate for sainthood. Thus the focus on the miracles of new saints.

As time goes by, saints who lived over a thousand years ago become more and more forgotten. There are so many old saints that for most Catholics they are names only, and some of them very unusual. About their life, nobody knows, except for a tiny number of people. Thus, the saying goes, the old saints have no more miracles, so to speak. (As Catholics, we know saints are always saints whose prayers are effective, even if few people know about them.)

Now apply this to politics.

A sitting senator has a good deal of power, even if that power is simply to make a phone call and something gets done.

But political office isn't a lifetime position. Politicians get elected, and politicians lose elections.

So, whenever there is a new saint (newly-elected politician), the old one (the losing politician) has no more miracles. There is nothing an ex-senator can do for you (as a senator).

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


Along with "Håfa adai," "Si Yu'us ma'åse'" and a few other expressions, newcomers to the Marianas, before long, hear and wonder about the way we say "Biba!" on many occasions.

Just mention someone's name in a speech, and you might hear someone in the crowd tell, "Biba!"

What does it mean, really, and how is it connected to similar words like bibu and bubu?


The word biba is taken from the Spanish word viva. The literal and first meaning of viva is "live" in the imperative. It is, in Spanish, the command to live. Live! Don't die!

The implied meaning is "long live." The word "long" is not stated, but the idea is implied. So, whereas in English we would cry out "Long live the King," in Spanish one says "Viva el Rey!"

I wouldn't be surprised if this is how the expression made its way into the Chamorro language, hearing soldiers and guards working for Spain say this salutation now and then. In time, these "Spanish" soldiers and guards were Chamorro soldiers and guards. Of mixed blood, to be sure, but born here and speaking the Chamorro language.

Secondly, Chamorros would have heard the word "Viva!" exclaimed in religious settings. Not during Mass, which was in Latin and celebrated with solemnity, but during a procession, or at the end of a priest's remarks on a feast day.

We do this to this day, as it is custom to abiba the saint three times towards the end of a patronal fiesta. Biba San Jose! Or whatever saint is being honored. Three times.

This is interesting because Saint Joseph is alive and well, and for all eternity, in heaven, yet we are wishing that he live long, as if he could possibly die. But that is just the literal meaning of viva or biba. The expanded meaning of biba is simply an exclamation of love, happiness, appreciation and so on.

This is how, I believe, the term was then applied later in time to anyone and anything we want to honor, or to show appreciation for, or even, in politics, support.

Biba Democrat! Biba Republican! Biba Liberation Day! Biba kumpleåños! Biba retirement! Biba si Magdalena! Biba tax refund! Whatever and whoever you want.

One way we make this Spanish expression Chamorro is that we do not follow Spanish grammar when using it. Viva is the imperative for one person. In Spanish, when speaking of more than one person, viva becomes vivan. Vivan los pescadores! Long live the fishermen! But, in Chamorro, it is "Biba i man peskadot!"


The Chamorro word bibu is related to biba.

Even bibu comes from the Spanish word vivir (to live) and it means "fast, energetic, lively" and so on. A car can be bibu in speed and a party can be bibu, full of life, fun, entertaining.

It is pure coincidence that the Chamorro word bubu (angry) sounds similar to bibu. But there is no historic connection between the two words.  There is no Spanish word bubu nor bubo.

Then there's abubu (balloon), also unconnected with Spanish.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016


Once a Big Name, Now All but Forgotten

There are some people who had a place in Guam history who have gone and are all but forgotten.

One of these is Ben Zafra. Government worker. Forester for the Naval Government. Chief Commissioner of Guam from 1941 to 1960. Even during the Japanese Occupation.

But if you ask people if they ever heard of Ben Zafra, only the older people will say they have.


Ben was born Vicente Ulloa Zafra, the son of Román Zafra, the son of Dominga Zafra. Román's father is unknown. But we do know that Román was Filipino. He moved to Guam and was military health officer in the Spanish colonial government. He had some bad luck, though, being accused in the 1880s of having abandoned his post and fleeing from arrest. But, he was still living on Guam in 1897 and appears in the census, a free man.

Román's first wife was Chamorro, María Eustaquio. Together, they had a daughter named Angustia. María then passed away and Román married another Chamorro woman, Dolores Rivera Ulloa, the daughter of Manuel Ulloa and Vicenta Rivera. Román and Dolores' one and only child was Vicente.

Both Román and Dolores must have passed away before 1920 (perhaps in the 1918 Spanish influenza epidemic) because Ben and Angustia are found in 1920 living with Eulogio de la Cruz. Cruz was a man of some means, and a Filipino married to a Chamorro. Perhaps Eulogio and his countryman Román Zafra were friends, and when Román died, Eulogio became the guardian of Román's children. Next door to Eulogio, in their own dwelling, were Eulogio's two sons, Francisco and José. It seems certain that Eulogio made sure that Ben learned English and to read and write. He was identified as a messenger at the age of 17 in the 1920 Census.

Early Years

Zafra began working for the Naval Government in 1917 as a messenger boy, then in 1922 as a clerk. Sometime before 1930, Ben was married to Oliva Castro. Their wedding, said one elderly lady who heard it from her mother, was a big event. Their wedding cake was so tall that they couldn't decorate it inside the house. They had to take the cake outside for that. Sadly, after just a few months, Ben and Oliva separated. In Chamorro, "ma na' na'lo si Oliva." "They returned Oliva to her family." In the 1930 Guam Census, Oliva is listed as divorced, living alone except for a ten-month old baby girl whose last name was Castro, Oliva's maiden name. Apparently the baby was born out of wedlock.

Around 1925, he went to Hong Kong to work for the U.S. Public Health Service. He served one year as a Merchant Marine, then worked for the Texas Oil Company (China), Ltd. In 1934 he moved to Saigon to work for a construction company.

He returned to Guam in 1935 and worked as deputy land judge and assistant chief forester for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Chief Commissioner - Even under the Japanese

In 1941, just months before war, Ben was made Chief Commissioner, succeeding Antonio Crisóstomo Suárez who decided to retire. The commissioners were the village mayors, as we call them today. The Chief Commissioner was a liaison between the Naval Government and the village commissioners, but he could also, apparently, make some judicial decisions on minor issues.

When the Japanese occupied Guam, they asked him what his job was under the Americans. "Chief Commissioner," he replied. The Japanese then told him he was still Chief Commissioner whether he liked it or not. He was placed in the Japanese Navy Civilian Administration, called the Minseibu. Its offices were located in the Saint Vincent de Paul Hall adjacent the Hagåtña Cathedral.

The St Vincent de Paul Hall was turned into the headquarters of the Japanese Minseibu

His main job was clerical; a "glorified messenger boy" Zafra called himself. Juan "Buko" Castro, a Saipanese interpreter, would write or speak instructions from the Japanese in Chamorro to Ben, who would then type them out as written notices in Chamorro for the public. They were duplicated on a mimeograph machine. Ben passed out numerous copies to all the district commissioners and posted them on Hagåtña's eight public bulletin boards. 

He was also responsible for putting out a daily mimeographed news bulletin called the Omiya Nippō (Guam Daily Report). "Nippō" means "daily report" and "Omiya" literally means "great shrine" but it was the Japanese name for Guam during the war.

The Omiya Nippō was written in English by a Japanese named Ogawa. Ogawa's English was bad at times, turning his sentence into gibberish, but Zafra was not allowed to change a word. The "news" was also pure propaganda; lies in many cases. One time Zafra and his assistant José Roberto counted all the American ships the Japanese news said had sunk, and the amount was more than the number of ships in the world. "It became a joke," Zafra said.

Ben was paid 90 yen a month at first, till his pay was reduced to 75 yen a month. When the Americans started bombing Guam in 1944 and the Minseibu office caught on fire, Ben left Hagåtña and his job at the Minseibu. War's end was only a matter of time.

After the War

After the war, Ben continued as Chief Commissioner of Guam till 1960. He also sat on several government boards (Parole Board, Alcohol Beverage Control Board, Election Commission, etc) and was associate judge of the Court of Appeals before 1950.

Eventually, Ben found himself a second wife, Isabel (Beck) Perez, the daughter of Atanacio Taitano Perez, a prominent Chamorro government official in various capacities almost the entire first decades of the Naval Government period. They raised Beck's nephew, David Taitano Perez, Sr, the son of her sister Maria. The couple moved to California, according to one family member, to be closer to their nephew Daniel Perez Ploke, who was studying there. In 1964, Ben died in Alameda, CA.

Besides all this, Ben was well-known in the Guam community at the time as a sportsman. He was a good baseball player and a boxer. He was a tall man, easily 6 feet or more. He had huge hands. He was also a member of the Young Men's League of Guam, the first Chamorro civic organization.

Hawaii Church Chronicle, November 1959

Ben joined the Episcopalian Church in the 1950s, at Saint John the Divine Church, located at the time in Hagåtña. He is pictured above (left, holding flag) presenting the Guam flag to the church.

As Ben and Beck did not have any children, that family line is no more.


Ben's older sister, Angustia, better known as Nenita, who was single most of her life, finally married a Filipino man named Valentin A. Baltazar after the war in her senior years. They lived in Agaña Heights at her house. According to a family member, she could not speak much English and her Filipino husband could not speak Chamorro. So they used a lot of sign language. She died before him, and after her death he brought some family members from the Philippines to Guam. Angustia never had children.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016


Whereupon Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing publicly to expose her, was minded to put her away privately. (Matthew 1:19)

Saint Joseph's Disease

A man from Saipan was telling me the story how his father, in early 1944, was conscripted by the Japanese to join the work crews unloading weapons, ammunition and equipment that were shipped from Japan for the defense of Saipan against the Americans.

Workers were obliged to work round the clock with just a four hour visit to their wives and families.

Around that time, the man's wife found herself pregnant. At first, he thought nothing of it. But during those long hours at the dock, unloading military arsenal, he started to wonder if he had found the time and the energy to father a child. He just couldn't remember, as he would crash to his bed and go out like a light from pure exhaustion when he had his four-hour family visit.

So the man telling me this story said, "Nina'ye ni chetnot San Jose."

"He came down with Saint Joseph's disease."

Why Saint Joseph?

Saint Joseph faced a similar predicament when he took Mary for a wife but had no relations with her. When she was found to be pregnant, Joseph was totally perplexed. He knew he was not the father, but then who was? Mary was a virtuous woman completely above suspicion. So how then can a righteous woman be pregnant? Thus his decision to end the marriage, which had no yet been completed.

Eventually, an angel informs Joseph that it is the Holy Spirit who enabled Mary to conceive without human participation, and then a relieved Joseph continued with the completion of the wedding.

In the icon (painting) above, a perplexed Saint Joseph sits by himself in a confused and bewildered state, with the devil, disguised as an old shepherd, tempting him to doubt the divinity of the Christ Child. Of course, Joseph resisted this temptation and proved his righteousness.

The man's dad wondered to himself, "Is my wife pregnant with a Japanese soldier's baby?"

The man knew that his wife would not willingly have consorted with a local man, nor with a Japanese soldier or anyone else. But only a Japanese soldier would have had the power to force himself on the woman.

To his relief, when the baby was born, he didn't have a trace of Japanese looks on his infant face. By the time the boy was ten, he looked just like a younger version of his Chamorro father. 

He was cured of the Chetnot San Jose.

Monday, September 5, 2016


I've seen it spelled achatmat, achatma, chakmak....

...and many other versions, with or without glotas.

So how does one spell the word? And what is its origin?

Maybe answering the second question will shed light on the first.

The word is made up of two root words.

The first is ACHA. Acha means "equal, the same, similar, also."

Acha baba i dos. The two are equally bad.

Acha amko' hit. We are the same age.

Acha poddong i lepblo yan i båso. The book and the glass fell at the same time.

The KMA' that follows is a contraction (shortening) of the word guma'.

In other words, acha guma' becomes achakma'.

It means two people living (romantically) in the same house. But they aren't married.

So the older meaning of achakma' was a concubine, a lover you lived with. Not a lover whom you met every so often on the sly, and who lived apart from you.

We know this from the root word guma'. This kind of lover lived in the same (acha) house (guma') with you.

Today, achakma' is more understood as a lover or mistress who is "on the side,"  not one you live with openly. Language is always evolving and changing.

But the older meaning is a man and a woman who skip marriage altogether (whether religious or civil) and live together under the same roof, in the same house (guma').

The man and woman here skip over both the Justice of the Peace and the clergy man.

* By the way, many older Chamorros would also use the word konkubino, or concubine, for two people living openly in a romantic partnership without marriage.

Thursday, September 1, 2016


The men in the picture above are "roofing" a house.

In Chamorro, åtof is roof.

To roof a house is to åfte.

Åfte is a shortening (or contraction) of the word formed by åtof+e. By placing an E at the end of a word, the meaning of the word can now mean "to do that for/to someone or something." So, åtof means "roof" and åfte means "to put a roof on a house."

Now here's where it gets interesting.

We remember that Chamorros borrowed words from Spanish, and that's where we leave it.

But it also happened that Chamorros mixed Chamorro with Spanish and came up with a new word, a blend of both languages. Our ancestors did that with åfte.

They took the Spanish prefix des, which in English is dis.

To disregard, to dislike and to disagree. Those are all the negative sense of those root verbs.

Then they attached Spanish des to Chamorro åfte and came up with desåfte.

It means to "unroof," to take the roof off a house.

ÅFTE : to put a roof on

DESÅFTE : to take a roof off